Over the past few years the Solms-Delta and the Delta Trust has been working towards a future in which our local music, heritage and culture will be a shared resource, accessible to all. The scope for growth in the utilization of Cape music and culture as a vehicle for transformation and nation building is enormous.
Why a music museum? “Because music, which is one of humanity’s most primal means of communication, crosses boundaries and has the power to heal and unite; a power which is terribly necessary in post-apartheid South Africa,” says Mark Solms. “Exploring the musical aspect of our heritage also celebrates the many influences and peoples who put their own stamp on what we now call South African music. No single part is more important than the whole, and that’s what we hope we’ve put into a lively, fun and educational package.”
The Music van de Caab Centre is to be utilized as a base for archiving and displaying the knowledge accumulated during our fieldwork and research process, and to function as an educational resource for the wider community.
Exploration of the multi-layered roots of Cape music (and its indigenous, slave, African, European, and modern cross-cultural influences), suggests that transformation of the kind that is difficult to achieve through so many other avenues, is possible to realize through the bringing together of people through music.
How the music centre came about
Our Music van de Caab Centre, is the centrepiece of our heritage work on Cape music. The exhibition has been seven years in the making. Formal research began in 2007, when the Delta Trust embarked on a Cape music project that would document and interpret the musical traditions of the Cape interior as well as identify local (mainly rural) musicians who played in the Cape vernacular styles. Since the project’s inception, video recordings and interviews have been made of all the musicians who have performed at the ATKV-Oesfees, the annual rural music festival held at Solms-Delta. Field trips through the Boland and outlying areas undertaken by the project’s two musical directors, the late Alex van Heerden and current director Adriaan Brand, have resulted in a treasure-trove of important documentation about the history of Cape music, its instruments and its performers. This along with other research, is the foundation of the Museum’s exhibition.
The exhibition centers on a journey through Cape musical influences and history. While in some ways it is a general history, we have also tried to draw on as much as possible local stories to give a personal perspective of music through time.
The exhibition is designed along thematic principles, rather than chronological, however it is roughly chronological due to starting with indigenous origins, then European, slave and modern cross cultural influences. Three Custom ‘Through-the-glass touch screen kiosks and applications’ have been designed to bring to life various elements of the display: from the indigenous instruments and music to world influences on Cape music and interviews with present day musicians.
The music instruments on display are designed to be interactive replicas, based on musical instruments from the UCT Kirby collection. Visitors can pick these instruments up, try them out and have them demonstrated by the exhibition guide. Instrument replicas have been placed on a hanging glass shelf to make it seem that they are floating in the air – easily accessible, yet stable and secure.
Alongside a more traditional exploration of the various themes and content through information being printed on hanging glass panels suspended from the ceiling, the display in general is aimed to be very dynamic:
– videos on touch screens (playing music clips and commentary)
– hands-on experiences for visitors to participate in, especially with our musical instrument replicas
The indigenous musical instruments on display in the Centre are playable replicas of musical instruments from the University of Cape Town’s Kirby Collection. The original pieces in the collection are kept in glass cases and are far too fragile to be played. These replicas, many of which were made by San or Khoikhoi groups, were built by ethnomusicologist Gavin Coppenhall who also taught a number of Delta’s farm residents how to make them as part of a skills and knowledge transfer programme.
The training programme for (mostly) women from the farm’s surrounding disadvantaged farming communities, took the form of 52 four-hour workshops over a period of two years, and covered everything from the basics of indigenous instrument making to playing, with the aim of developing specialised skills in this field.
Nature provides most of the materials from which these instruments are constructed, and the Music van de Caab collection ranges from ankle rattles made of springbok ears and moth cocoons; bull-roarers; stopped flutes made from animal horns; seaweed horns; reed flutes; musical bows, ramkies made from a calabash or tin can and even a blik guitar, to name just a few.
These instruments have been designed to be played, and they can be demonstrated by the Centre’s guides, or played by visitors themselves.
All of the Music Centre guides are Solms-Delta farm residents or come from our local communties, and are involved in one or another of the estate’s many musical ensembles. They all have been involved in the making of the replica instruments. They are there to demonstrate these instruments, answer questions, or just to chat about the meaning of music in their own lives. Their unique perspective and personal experience is the ultimate local melody to this musical experience.